Posts Tagged ‘grain elevators’

Some Erie Sights

November 16, 2017

Hunter’s railroad wasn’t being very cooperative. I had set up on the West Main Street bridge in downtown Kent hoping to get a train or two on the CSX New Castle Subdivision.

Westbound intermodal trains Q015 and Q137 have been operating in mid to late afternoon of late. But I got crickets. There wasn’t as much as a peep on the radio.

After about 45 minutes of waiting, I got out and walked around to make photographs of whatever caught my eye, including some Erie Railroad relics.

The most prominent of those is the former passenger station, which has been restored and now houses an Italian restaurant.

Just south of the station is a heavyweight passenger car painted in Erie colors. It apparently is used as a meeting room, although I’ve never seen anyone in it.

There is a signal box by the station that I know I’ve seen dozens of times, but never photographed. Today I saw something there as the late afternoon sunlight cast a warm glow on the rust-covered box. Who knows how many years it has been here and how many trains it has seen?

Finally, I checked out the siding for the Star of the West grain elevator. Just the night before during a program at the Railroad Enthusiasts meeting in Cleveland there was speculation as to what will happen with this property, which closed earlier this year.

The Erie would have served this facility as did the Akron Barberton Cluster Railway. Now the siding sits unused.

At one time, one of the mainline tracks would have been here, but it has been a long time since these rails were a double-track mainline.

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The Red Grain Elevator of Wellington

May 19, 2017

A certain member of the Akron Railroad Club is known for his passion for photographing trains and grain elevators.

I know that in particular he likes the red grain facility in Wellington alongside the Greenwich Subdivision of CSX.

It makes for a dramatic  image in late afternoon sunlight. From what I can see, the facility is no longer served by rail.

I didn’t go there on a recent outing just to capture the red grain elevator. As much as anything I went there because Wellington wasn’t being covered  by clouds.

CSX cooperated beautifully by sending a pair of westbounds through town, a stack train and an ethanol train.

The ethanol train shown at top was the second of the pair and I tend to like that image the best of the two.

When I See a Grain Elevator, I Think of Marty

November 13, 2016

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One in a periodic series of images I made last summer

If I never saw Marty Surdyk again, I’ll always have something to remember him. Many times when I see a grain elevator I think of him because he has a fondness for such facilities that he has spoken about many times.

That is quite an accomplishment for a guy who grew up in a suburb of Cleveland and can be said to be a city boy.

But somewhere along the way Marty became fascinated with grain elevators and likes to photograph them with trains at every opportunity.

I was in Bellevue when I had a “Marty moment.” There are a couple of silos next to the Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum that were part of a grain elevator complex that is no longer in service and some of it has been razed.

The silos appear to be on museum property for a couple of pieces of the museum’s rolling stock were parked on what used to be a track that served the facility.

The locomotive is an Alco S-5 that used to be owned by Cargill, a company that describes itself as a provider of food, agricultural, financial and industrial supplies.

Cargill owns a lot of grain complexes and has its own fleet of switchers. This unit was last assigned to Cargill’s Michigan Division although I do not know where it once worked.

But a little online research found that it was built in June 1964 for the Boston & Maine.

It might have had another owner other than B&M and Cargill judging by some markings bleeding through the black paint.

I don’t know where in Michigan or anywhere else this unit worked while active for Cargill’s Michigan Division.

But in Bellevue on this June day, it was attached to a passenger car painted in what appears to be the last passenger livery of the Great Northern Railway.

I couldn’t help but think of Marty as I made this series of images.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

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Kent Grain Mill May Be Closing This Year

March 21, 2016

A regular reader of the Akron Railroad Club blog reports that the talk around Kent is that this may be the last year of operation for the Star of the West grain mill.

The downtown Kent landmark sits next to the former Erie Railroad mainline and is served by the Akron Barberton Cluster Railway.

The owner of the mill is reported to be building a new facility near Bellevue and has said the Kent facility might be used as a smaller “specialty” facility.

There are no apparent plans to sell or demolish the Kent mill, but that is subject to change.

There might be a short time left to photograph rail operations at the mill.

The ABB job to Kent that serves the mill operates  on weekdays and generally arrives in Kent at about 8 or 9 a.m.

The mill has a trackmobile that it uses to shuffle cars around.

The Andersons Buys Michigan Grain Elevators

October 11, 2014

The Andersons Inc. has purchased Auburn Bean and Grain, which owns six grain and four agronomy facilities in north central Michigan.

The facilities, which hold interchange agreements with Canadian National, CSX and Norfolk Southern, can store about 18.1 million bushels of grain, 16,000 tons of dry products and 3.7 million gallons of liquid nutrients.

The acquisition will increase the storage capacity of The Andersons’ Grain Group by about 13 percent and further enhance the company’s presence in one of its core states, said The Andersons Chief Executive Officer Mike Anderson in a news release.

“This acquisition provides an increase in our storage capacity and volume for both our grain and nutrient businesses, and it also represents a nice geographic fit between our other Michigan assets and our Thompsons joint venture in Ontario,” he said.

Waiting For The Harvest Season to Begin

October 10, 2014
A caboose and string of covered hopper cars wait at Jones Switch for the call to be pulled down to a nearby elevator to be filled with grain.

A caboose and string of covered hopper cars wait at Jones Switch for the call to be pulled down to a nearby elevator to be filled with grain.

I don’t know who Jones was and why a switch on the old Peoria, Decatur & Evansville was named after him.

I just know that for as long as I can remember there has been a grain elevator southeast of my hometown of Mattoon, Ill., at a place called Jones Switch.

Today Interstate 57 goes practically over the top of Jones Switch. The PD&E, which was acquired by the Illinois Central Railroad early in the 20th century is mostly gone east of Jones switch.

A portion of the PD&E remains in place from the Canadian National yard in Mattoon – what’s left of it anyway – out to the elevator at Jones Switch.

Traffic on this spur probably is sporadic. A week or more might go by without any trains moving over these tracks.

I left in Mattoon since 1983 and don’t get back there much so I don’t know how often that trains operate on this line.

I do know that the last two times that I saw Jones switch there was a string of covered hopper cars parked to the west and an IC caboose wearing the IC “death star” logo was being used as a shoving platform for CN crews backing the hoppers out to the elevator.

As far as I know, the occasional move of covered hoppers is the only traffic still left on this segment of the old PD&E.

There are countless locations such as Jones Switch scattered all over America. A branch line or a portion of a branch line remains in place to serve a particular customer or two that needs rail service.

The distance between the Mattoon yard and Jones Switch is a couple miles or so and the track is not in the best condition.

I have to wonder how much longer that CN will agree to move covered hoppers over this stretch without some track rehabilitation.

Whatever the case, I made it a point to visit Jones Switch last month during a visit back to Mattoon this past August  to do some railfanning of the former IC.

The caboose I had seen two years earlier on these tracks was there along with a string of covered hoppers. The elevator owns or leases a geep painted solid blue that has had its markings and numbers removed.

The diesel was silent and I didn’t observe any activity at the grain elevator.

The only sounds came from traffic rushing by on the interstate and the wind rustling the corn plants next to the tracks. Some of that grain might move over these very tracks in a couple more months.

But the corn was still quite green and would need more than a month to mature and be ready for harvest.

So everything waits for its time. The caboose, the covered hoppers and the blue geep will soon enough have work to do.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Rust is threatening to overcome the IC's gray paint.

Rust is threatening to overcome the IC’s gray paint.

Some of the corn growing next to the tracks may well journey to market over those tracks and maybe even in these cars.

Some of the corn growing next to the tracks may well journey to market over those tracks and maybe even in these cars.

CN train crews are not allowed to go all the way to Jones' switch.

CN train crews are not allowed to go all the way to Jones’ switch.

The heritage of this locomotive is a mystery, what with its markings and numbers having been removed.

The heritage of this locomotive is a mystery, what with its markings and numbers having been removed.

What tales could this geep tell of places its been and worked?

What tales could this geep tell of places its been and worked?

The elevator at Jones Switch looms in the background over Interstate 57. These tracks once went all the way to Evansville, Ind.

The elevator at Jones Switch looms in the background over Interstate 57. These tracks once went all the way to Evansville, Ind.

Need a used tractor? It still has lots of life left in it.

Need a used tractor? It still has lots of life left in it.

7 Injured in Coschocton Grain Elevator Explosion

August 15, 2014

A Coschocton grain elevator where an explosion on Wednesday afternoon injured seven may be demolished. The explosion remains under investigation but may have been caused been blamed by an accumulation of grain dust.

Injured were five employees of the Coschocton Grain Company and two state grain graders who were at the business at the time of the explosion. The elevator is located next to the Ohio Central tracks.

One of the injured was flown to Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center while the other six were taken to Coshocton County Memorial Hospital.

None of the injuries was life-threatening, said Larry Endsley, a co-owner of the business and chairman of the board.

Endsley said the likely cause of the explosion, which occurred shortly after 4 p.m., is a spark that ignited grain dust as several rail cars were being filled with corn.

“While we do our best to minimize the risk, grain elevators are very prone to dust explosions,” he told The Columbus Dispatch. “When something sparks it, it’s almost like a bomb. There was no fire. The whoosh puts the fire out, and in a split second, it’s over.”

Endsley said the explosion blew the roofs off several silos and grain bins.

“We don’t know how much damage there will be yet,” he said. “But the worst thing is that we’re getting into our busiest time of the year. We’ll get to work quickly to get repairs done.”

Coshocton Grain also has facilities in Hebron and Johnstown and in Illinois. The Coschocton location handles about 10 million bushels of grain a year.

Coshocton Fire Chief Mike Layton said he didn’t fear another explosion, but smoldering fires remained a concern as several fire crews battled smoke and flames on Thursday from the tops of three adjacent silos to the ones damaged in Wednesday’s explosion.

The company said in a written statement that it will continue to work with state and local officials to determine the cause of the explosion.

Ohio Occupational Health and Safety Administration officials and representatives from the firm’s insurance company were on site Thursday.

The release also said management was grateful for the outpouring of support from the community and thoughts and prayers were with employees and their families.

Layton said minor smoke was emitting from one of the silos after firefighters began clearing the scene after 7 p.m. Wednesday.

He hoped the fire might die out with compacting grain causing a lack of air getting to it. It didn’t happen, but there were no major flare ups overnight.

Layton had checked in twice Thursday morning with grain company management. He said flames seen at about 11:15 a.m. were caused by air getting through a vent.

A ladder truck was used to spray water on the silos, which Layton said cooled the blaze, but didn’t extinguish it because firefighters weren’t able to get water directly on the fire because of the enclosed roofs.

Layton consulted with experts on fighting grain fires who said that one option is to shoot liquid nitrogen or a carbon dioxide product from the base of the silos upward.

But that couldn’t be done here because the bins are not well sealed. A structural damage team from Columbus Wednesday suggested the damaged silos be torn down.

“We got fires on both sides of this thing and we’re still coming up with a game plan on what we need to do,” Layton said. “I suggested (management) call their insurance company and say the only way we’re going to be able to combat this is to start the demo process.”

Board Chairman Endsley previously had said that the 66-year-old business would be closed several weeks, but hoped to be reopen by the busy fall harvest season.

The company’s website instructs farmers with contracts to drop off corn and soybeans at the business should arrange for alternative delivery. It also stated that new crop bids would be suspended until further details are known of damage suffered and a timeline for reopening.

Endsley said such incidents are not uncommon in the grain industry and his business has always been proactive in its training and planning for such emergencies. The company had passed all required OSHA training and certification, he said.

Endsley said he did not expect a lot of financial loss from the grain itself and the firm has insurance for business loss. At the time of the explosion Wednesday, corn was being transported to rail cars to make room for new stock. About 1 million bushels were in the damaged concrete silos.

The 13-acre facility has 2.7 million bushels of space and and around 900 customers in 22 counties across southeastern Ohio.

In the meantime, a Columbus TV station reported that over the years the plant has been cited for some various violations, including one that can cause explosions.

ABC 6 Chief Investigator Tom Sussi said he had been in contact with OSHA officials in Chicago and learned that OSHA has no record of workers at the facility getting hurt on the job. By law, companies only have to report injuries when three of more people are sent to the hospital.

OSHA records show that in 2011 the company was cited for having an “excess accumulation of grain dust.” The company also failed to produce an annual plan to prevent an acceptable level of grain dust.     During last year’s inspections, ABC6 reported that OSHA found 17 serious violations, including wiring issues, lack of personal protection equipment, and unsecured open floor areas. In one case, workers were exposed to a dangerous eight-foot drop. The company agreed to pay nearly $17,000 in fines, and correct the violations. ABC 6 said it learned that last year the company was fined $3,150 for a repeat violation of failing to secure work areas from potentially dangerous falls.